How to Design Jewelry and Pearl Beads
This month is how to design jewelry and June's birthstone pearls. Scroll down, or click a link on the html version.
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How to Design Jewelry
Where to find Inspiration
How do I know if I have a Good Design?
The Secrets of Pearls
What are Cultured Pearls?
What is Mother-of-Pearl?
Knotting a Pearl Neckace
How to Tell Real from Fake Pearls
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How to Start
Some beginners find a bead loom is the easiest way to begin. Sketch your design on graph paper and select the beads you want to use for the project. Match the color of beads to the color you draw on paper. If you don’t want to buy a lot of beads and tools that will be left over, purchase a bead making kit for just one project.
Many start using patterns online or from magazines. Then after gaining experience making a few items, they experiment with ideas of their own. Leaf through fashion magazines and learn current trends. Make notes when you see anything appealing, like a model wearing earrings that go well with her sweater. Then work with your pieces to create a variation on the look.
Choice the color of your necklace first, and then match earrings or other jewelry around this. Blend colors that are similar, contrasting color seldom works. Aim for harmony and it will please the eye. However, learn how to use a color wheel to create effects with stunning combinations too.
Size of Beads
To help decide on the size of beads to use, liken designing to a flower arrangement – start with the larger flowers first, then fill in with smaller ones. Bearing in mind the design must be functional and practical to wear.
Balancing jewelry is more an art than a science - however, certain guidelines generally apply:
Use findings like spacers, bead caps, and jump rings creatively. These can add style and professionalism to your design.
Start with a Frame
The basic elements of design outlined above are your building blocks. Use them as your starting point from which to alter the design into something from your heart. They’ll ensure your produce powerful jewelry.
Where to find Inspiration
You want to design a new jewelry piece, but how do you get the creativity flowing to come up with a wave of ideas? Creativity stems from within. Your brain stores everything you have seen and experienced - ideas spring from these memories. You already have millions of designs imbedded in your mind. The problem is getting them out! Never underestimate your own creativity.
Think new to create new
Rearrange your mind in every way you can - if you always think along the same lines, you’ll end up with the same ideas.
If you get stuck - paint with a different brush!
Live life more
Build your creativity by collecting ideas all the time. Look at many different designs, online and offline. Talk with customers and other designers. The smallest thing can spark a new idea. Inspiration comes from many sources apart from jewelry – especially the latest fashions in various forms. Try different experiences and travel more. The more diverse or the further traveled the better.
Analyze why some pieces of jewelry draw your attention, while others look dull. Is it because one element is emphasized over another? Is it a play of color or shape? Does the design resemble something fashionable?
From a basic frame, experiment arranging beads in different ways, using shape, color and stone to produce striking design. As long as the overall effect has harmony, it will look attractive.
How do I know I have a Good Design?
The successful jewelry design fits into the overall market - yet is distinctive enough to influence browsers to purchase.
A well designed piece moves with the body, feels good to wear, and looks pleasing and harmonious to the eye. A necklace should drape nicely and it must feel right. The design should be creative, yet within the boundaries of wear-ability, and it must appeal to the customer or it won't sell.
Pearls are expected to be expensive and in short supply.
The reason is that people understand pearls are natural. However, since the 1950s, natural pearls have been cultivated by man – making them much cheaper to buy. This means that including them in jewelry, you will make you even more profit!
What are Cultured Pearls?
The least expensive cultured pearls today rival the most expensive natural pearls ever found. Cultured freshwater pearls occur in mussels for the same reason saltwater pearls occur in oysters. Foreign material inside a mussel can't be expelled. To reduce irritation, the mollusk coats the intruder with the same secretion it uses for shell-building, nacre. To cultivate a pearl, farmers slit the mussel and insert small pieces of live tissue from another mussel.
The ancient Chinese practiced this technique, but the first real cultured freshwater pearls originated from Japan in the 1930's. Japanese farmers by Lake Biwa achieved natural colors previously unseen in saltwater pearls. However, water pollution today has virtually destroyed pearl production there. China now has the resources that Japan lacks: many large lakes, rivers, and a low-cost work force.
China has now revolutionized pearling - shapes, luster, and colors of Chinese pearls now surpass Biwa quality. Copying the Japanese to improve off-white and mottling, China uses a mild bleach, bright lights, and heat. Natural freshwater pearls are usually odd shapes. So for more roundness, they reshape rejected pearls into spheres, and then nucleate mussels with them.
Freshwater pearls are popular for their colors: white, silvery-white, pink, red, copper, brown, lavender, purple, green, blue, and yellow. The most desirable are the pastel pinks, roses, lavenders, and purples. Natural color comes from the mussel species and water quality – with pearls taking the color of the shell in which they form. However, permanent dyes are used today for most saturated colors.
The Best Pearls
Good pearls have thick overlapping layers of nacre. This can be tested by viewing its "luster". Roll the pearl with a pen in good light - the best pearls will reflect the pen the most. A large pearl is only more valuable if it's the same quality as a smaller one - the rounder the better. Being an organic gem, grooves, pits, or dents are expected.
What is Mother-of-Pearl?
The shining, playful, reflected light of mother-of-pearl has attracted attention since ancient times. From then, different technology has turned mother-of-pearl into many uses, apart from jewelry. Today, it’s dyed every color under the sun - creating attractive jewelry at affordable prices. The mollusk forms mother-of-pearl as a protective shell. Like the pearl it’s a secretion of the mantle, composed of alternate layers of calcium carbonate and conchiolin. Among the chief sources are pearl oysters from the tropical seas.
Matching pearls isn’t easy, but is important when planning jewelry. It’s an art in itself, requiring a sharp eye, excellent judgment, and experience. Try to buy all the pearls for a project at the same time, as later batches may not match your original purchase. When balancing pearls for jewelry, you need to consider:
Knotting a Pearl Necklace
If you look closely, you’ll see tiny knots in between each pearl on a good necklace. This prevents the pearls rubbing against each other - and if the necklace breaks, beads won’t go flying. Knotting also makes the necklace drape nicely and adds length so you need less pearls.
Pearls should be restrung every few years, depending on the amount of wear and exposure to hair spray, perfume, body oils, lotions, moisture, and perspiration they receive. These elements can weaken the silk and cause a potential break point for the strand.
There are a few ways to knot a beaded necklace, but I’ll only tell you the easiest for beginners. First, you’ll need to choose a type of cord to use. There are two types that are usually used for knotting: silk and nylon. Silk is traditional, however many complain that it snags and frays. Nylon cord can also be used. Both come in a variety of colors. They can be purchased on small cards with about 6 feet of cord and a needle attached or, for the serious knotter, larger spools can be purchased with separate needles. They also come in different sizes. The thicker cord is used for the larger beads since the holes in the beads are larger. For the beginner’s technique, two strands are put through each bead, so a thinner size is needed. For 6mm beads, use size 2 for this technique, and try to match the color of the cord with the color of the beads.
A very-popular way to start any beaded necklace is with bead tips (clamp shells). The only difference here is that two strands of the cord are inserted through the bead tip instead of one. Once the necklace is started, string on a bead, and make an over hand knot. Make the knot tight so it’s snug up against the bead. Continue to do this: string a bead, make an over hand knot, string a bead, make an over hand knot. That’s it. Finish the necklace as you would any beaded necklace whether it’s knotted or not. This beginner’s way is a lot easier than using one strand of cord, and the results look almost the same.
Real pearls may come from either freshwater or saltwater, and it’s very difficult to tell which - both form in a variety of molluscs (not just oysters). However, all grow the same way in baroque shapes as well as round. There are also shell pearls and genuine pearls which have been artificially coated or dyed. Before you deal in pearls, you need to know if they’re natural or not.
If you want to buy expensive pearls that are perfectly matched, a gemologist certificate (from one of your choice) is essential. It costs about $150 to have pearls tested, as opposed to several-thousands for the type that warrant the test. An x-ray will show variations in density the inside of the pearl, a parasite that might have caused the formation of a natural pearl, and the characteristic shapes of drill holes.
The tooth test
Rub the surface of the pearl over your teeth - a real pearl feels gritty, while a faux pearl feels smooth. Real pearls are made up of layers of nacre that are deposited like sand on a beach. The slight waves in the nacre give a bumpy feeling against the teeth. However, if the pearls are dyed, the dye can fill in natural depressions.
Look at the pearls in bright light. Unless they’re very expensive, genuine pearls won't look perfectly matched. There will be slight variations in shape, size and color - along with grooves in their nacre, bumps, ridges, or pits. Otherwise, or if any are a perfect sphere or have a grainy smoothness: they’re suspect.
Cutting a pearl open will reveal its true nature. Natural pearls are comprised of many layers of nacre. Cultured pearls have a mother-of-pearl shell core covered with a thin layer of nacre. Fake pearls have a core with one or more layers of coating which tends to flake away on cutting.
Examine drill holes to see the nacre layers and what lies beneath. Real pearls are usually drilled from both sides to meet in the middle - making the hole appear wider at the outside edge of the pearl. Holes of fake pearls are usually strait and are more likely to be larger all the way through. The nacre of fake pearls near the drill holes, flakes away easier than on a natural pearls. And cheap real pearls may not be drilled straight, making a necklace hang badly, unless it’s knotted.
Sometimes fakes are made to look irregular, and glass pearls often have flattened ends. Genuine pearls warm to the skin faster than glass pearls - while plastic pearls tend to feel warm right away. And real pearls are usually heavier for their size than any fakes.
Other signs are in the pearl’s surroundings. A genuine pearl necklace is more likely to be knotted and set in gold, silver, or platinum. You can examine clasps for stamps in the metal or for magnetism (indicating iron as opposed to a precious metal). The clasp should have a safety mechanism, like a fish hook. No one would use insecure clasps on good pearls.
Faux pearls, although manmade, are not necessarily a cheap substitute to the real thing. They have genuine beauty of their own, looking “almost” the same as natural pearls costing thousands of dollars. They’re created by coating the outside of glass or plastic beads with essence d’orient or pearl powder. This is then dipped into various solutions of pearl film to simulate the luster of a natural pearl.
Pearl folk lore
There are an almost infinite number of myths and folk lore associated with pearls. Many pearl web sites included their own version of pearl myths. Here are a few that I found:
Special care is needed for pearls. Since they are naturally porous, it’s important to make sure they do not absorb cologne, hair spray, lotions, or make up. Although oils from your skin help keep the pearls from drying out. Pearl jewelry is often purchased in a silk or felt pouch. You should keep the pearls in this to prevent scratches. To clean pearls, don’t use any jewelry cleaners – wipe gently with a damp cloth.
To see all our pearls click either MrBead.com or MrBead.co.uk
This newsletter was taken from the book How to Make a Killing Selling Bead Jewelry, to be published soon.
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